About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Angry Birds Cause a Flap: Why do Birds Fight?

I just broke up two sparrows fighting on my back porch. They looked like they were going to kill each other. What can I do to stop the bird fights in my backyard? ~Indianapolis, Indiana

There are varied signs of spring: migrating birds passing through, new songs in the air, and the earth slowly waking up from its long winter nap. And there is another sign that is just as predictable which you’ve noticed, the bird battles.

The testosterone levels in male birds is up in the spring, territories are being determined, and battles break out. Two house sparrows in a seemingly endless wrestling match is not uncommon. It’s usually a bloodless battle that ends when they are distracted or one bird taps out.

Impression of bird fight left in snow
Male House Sparrows have a patch of black feathers at the throat and chest called a "bib" or a "badge". This patch of feathers increases in size with age. Usually a darker/larger bib signals a higher social status or fitness that will have the younger setting up challenges. My recommendation is to just let them do battle. If it goes on too long for your comfort, it’s OK to interrupt them with a loud shout.


Even though the house sparrows are known for being pugnacious birds, other bird species also make themselves conspicuous with their springtime actions. I’m getting ready for calls to come in about cardinals and robins attacking their reflection in the window. This is also a territorial behavior.

stoopid birdImage by abradyb via Flickr
When some birds see their reflection they believe it’s an intruder just their size so they’re not intimidated. For these birds, the battle seems even and they will continue to attack until something intervenes, and the sooner the better.

This domineering behavior should be curbed before it becomes just a bad habit. The objective is to shock the bird out of its pattern of territoriality. Most birds do stop after a couple weeks of window pounding in the spring, but it's better to try and deter the birds just in case it turns out to be an action that is performed so often that it becomes almost an involuntary response.

Some tips to deter bird window attacks:

• Cover the window with screens
• Shut the blinds on your windows when you are not at home and at night.
• Rub the window with a bar of soap to decrease the reflection.
• Hang balloons or Flutter Scare tape.* Anything that moves and repels the bird from that area will be effective.
• Post a hawk silhouette outside a window.* Hawks prey on birds, so their images will keep birds from flying towards your window.
• Install a window feeder.* This breaks the reflection and other birds interrupt the birds battles with himself.

*Available at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI
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1 comment:

Mandy S:) said...

Good morning!

I just saw two American Robins fighting with each other. Is this over territory, or a mate partner? I don't want the Robins to hurt each other. I like your suggestions about how to stop window crashes. Thanks for the advice:)